“Hands up all the children who have a tornister.”
Sorry for gap in posting but read this and you’ll realise it’s been a tough week!
Zosia started “proper” school on 1st September and at the moment we’re all wishing she hadn’t! For the last three years Zosia has been attending play-school / pre-school and we now realise what a holiday camp that was. Start & finish times were fairly relaxed and there wasn’t much to worry about other than dropping her off, letting her have some fun and then picking her up.
When it comes to proper school though, the amount of faffing around required before she even gets there is quite amazing even though she’s only in ‘zerówka’, the year between play-school and really proper school. M has been fantastic in making sure that Zosia is replete with about a hundred items ranging from hats for swimming to pencil sharpeners, books, pencils, glue and so on. All these things need to be kept in something in the classroom so a hunt for suitably sized boxes was undertaken that took in almost every shop in Warsaw. In fact, if you combine the box hunt with the ‘sticky plastic to protect books with’ hunt, it involved more man hours than Scott’s two trips to the Antarctic.
Of course, storage in the classroom is fine but you also have to do a lot more transporting to and from school, which sparked “The Great Tornister Hunt” that lasted most of our holiday (there is not a shop in Italy that sells backpack-like things that we have not been into) and into our first few days back in Warsaw. Eventually we found a shop on Mokotowska selling imported German ones, not cheap mind you. In case you’re ignorant like what I was – a tornister, wonderful word straight from the German, is essentially a stiff backpack, best demonstrated with a picture:
A gaggle of tornisters
Even the small ones are quite big for a six year old so in the end we bought a backpack for now and a tornister for next year or whenever the emergency deployment of a tornister might be required. They do look to be useful floatation devices in fact so it may become standard equipment for boat trips as well.
Equipment sorted we started worrying about getting her there on time. School starts at 08:00 and as we live about 5 mins from school I was gearing up to leave at 07:50 and all is well. Then we had the ‘parent’s meeting’ with Pani Teacher who kept saying ‘dobrze?!’ after she’d imparted some knowledge like she was expecting us to answer “Jawohl, Herr Kommandant!!“. One of her pearls of wisdom was that she expects the kids to be ready in the holding pen downstairs at precisely 07:50 so she can collect them and take them up to class. Any kids not in the holding pen at this time will have to hang around down there until a break when the lazy ones will be granted access. This brought howls of very confusing complaint from one parent, with some support from other Łomiankiites, who appeared to blaming the teacher for the fact that Łomianki, where they live, is a long way from Młociny, where the school is and the traffic between the two is awful and takes 50 minutes driving time. This logic was being used as a lever to shift the drop time from 07:50 to 08:15 or thereabouts. Pani Kommandant wasn’t impressed, who would be? She avoided making observations about parental decisions on where to live and which schools to choose, more than I would have done, and re-stated her 07:50 rule. So, by the time you factor in the 07:50 rule, the busy traffic around the school at last-minute-drop-time, the waking up of tired children, the washing, dressing, breakfast & packing the backpack, my 07:50 leaving home is now more like 07:25 and the alarm is set for 06:30. Bloody nightmare!
The whole ‘getting kids to school’ thing is brand new for our family and is clearly something we’re going need time to adjust to. My respect for families with multiple school-age kids grows ever stronger.
Aside from the teacher’s apparent inability to switch between child and adult communication modes, there were a few other things that struck me during the parent’s meeting. Perhaps worth explaining the type of school first. The school is a “Społeczna Szkoła Podstawowa”, which as I understand it is somewhere between a public school (essentially free) and a full-blown (and usually very expensive) private school. It might be called in English a “Cooperative, almost non-profit, private school”. The costs of such schools vary but to give you an idea of the difference in costs I can compare what we are paying versus fees for ‘The British School in Warsaw’ as published on their website. Making some allowances for extra-curricular activities as yet unknown, Zosia’s annual fees will amount to roughly 9,000 PLN. The basic annual cost of The British School is 50,950 PLN. The annual cost of Zosia’s play-school was about 15,000 PLN. Some big differences there! So, on the basis that it is good, cheap, very close to home and populated by a number of people we already know, we decided to go the społeczny route.
One of the consequences of the low cost cooperative system became clear in the parent’s meeting. There were a few items of capital expense that arose during the discussion because although the classroom has all the basic essentials, and I mean basic, there are a few things missing. A water dispenser was talked about in response to the teacher’s reluctance to allow kids to go downstairs to the tuck shop to buy water if they need a drink and the parent’s reluctance to put two bottles of water in the backpack. There’s nowhere near enough shelving or cupboard space to house all the big boxes of kit and there’s no CD player to provide music or to play the discs that came with the books we bought. My simple logic assumed these should be provided by the school but to my surprise there ensued a debate amongst the parents as to the best way that we could provide these items, at our cost. As this involves a committee I have no doubt we will still be debating it at the end of the school year.
The last thing to surprise me, although it shouldn’t after all this time, was the use of the generic word ‘religion’ to mean specifically Catholicism. This relates to the extra-curricular class on ‘religious studies’. This is not a strongly religious school, a good thing in my opinion, but classes are available as an option albeit that the only options are Catholicism or nothing! As the kommandant was banging on about ‘religia’ assuming it is blindingly obvious that this means Catholicism I had to fight pretty hard not to put my hand up and ask which religion she was talking about. This surely has to change at some point even if only to satisfy a boring EU law about discrimination. If they are going to provide religious education then it should contain about 50% on the religion of the country or school and the remaining time on the other religions of the world. That would be education. As it stands today though, it is called religious education but is in fact Catholic indoctrination. Trade descriptions act maybe? Even if the school doesn’t bring religious education into the C21st the parents may force a rethink. I don’t have the figures but there is a surprising number of children who have been opted out of ‘religia’.